June 25, 2021

Moving from propaganda to problem solving?

 In terms of using cynical political strategies to promote bad agendas, the "war on coal" narrative that emerged in the Obama era worked as well in West Virginia (not in a good way) as the famous Republican national  "southern strategy" that rode white resentment to power in the wake of the civil rights movement.

(Both had a more or less subtle racial dog whistle component.)

The war on coal narrative basically blamed the ills of the coal industry and coal communities--mostly the results of market forces and automation-- on the policies of the Obama administration and similar targets.

 Meanwhile, people who were serious about dealing with coalfield problems, which are very real, pushed for policies promoting what's been called a "just transition," which the Climate Justice Alliance defines as " a vision-led, unifying and place-based set of principles, processes, and practices that build economic and political power to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy." As in solutions over propaganda and scapegoating.

There is actually some low hanging fruit here, along the lines laid out in the stalled RECLAIM Act, which among other things would reallocate Abandoned Mine Lands (not to be confused with abandoned land mines) funding to undo some of the damage caused by mining and create jobs. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the WV legislature yesterday, Republican supermajorities and all, approved a resolution calling on the federal government to allocate $8 billion to the state for more job-creating reclamation projects, which is something the Biden administration also supports.

At the risk of sounding like a certain US senator from WV, the measure enjoyed broad bipartisan support--for real--and was also hailed by environmentalists. I'm not sure how far this will go, but this kind of thing doesn't happen very often. Special shoutout to Delegate Evan Hansen (D-Monongalia County), who has taken a leading role in promoting economic transition ideas and addressing climate change. 

Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of legislators formed an informal working group to address coalfield revitalization. It would be nice if this means a real shift in focus towards problem-solving over politics.

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